95 – To live the Christian faith denotes service to the person, as a whole and to all peoples, starting with those living on the margins

The Catholic faith we received on the day of our Baptism is centered on the person of Jesus Christ, only begotten Son of the Father, Lord of all creation, and Redeemer of humanity. At first glance, no one would dare to differ with this simple affirmation, so very evident for anyone who prays the Creed with devotion. Sincerely permeated with the faith, a Christian lives according to the Commandments, and is not frightened by the sufferings and difficulties of life. Encountering someone in need, he spares no effort to assist them; recalling, however, that ‘not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord (Deut 8:3)’.

To live the faith in our days demands constant courage and heroism, because many do not understand, fail to support and even persecute those who radically reject sin, confess regularly, attend Sunday Mass, and strive to conform their hearts and their minds to Jesus. These everyday heroes would be surprised to hear someone say that it is not necessary to go against the tide of this world, because to live the faith it is enough to help others, without distinction. In other words, more than living for Christ, it’s enough to dedicate oneself to others. Is it really that simple? How does the Magisterium teach us to live our faith, keeping our salvation in sight?



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While the Church is called to introduce the leaven and be the salt of the Gospel, that is, the love and mercy of God which reach all men and women, and which point to the heavenly and definitive goal of our destiny, it falls to civil society and political society to articulate and build a life which is more humane, through justice, solidarity, law and peace. For those who live their Christian faith, this does not mean either fleeing from the world or seeking dominance, but rather it denotes service to the person, as a whole and to all peoples, starting with those living on the margins, all the while keeping alive the sense of hope that compels us to work for the good of all, looking to the future. (Letter to Eugenio Scalfari, September 4, 2013)

[Journalist] As we speak there is a refugee crisis. How are you experiencing this situation?
[Francis] It is the tip of an iceberg. These poor people are fleeing war, hunger, but that is the tip of the iceberg. Because underneath that is the cause; and the cause is a bad and unjust socioeconomic system, in everything, in the world – speaking of the environmental problem –, in the socioeconomic society, in politics, the person always has to be in the centre. That is the dominant economic system nowadays, it has removed the person from the centre, placing the god money in its place, the idol of fashion. There are statistics, I don’t remember precisely, (I might have this wrong), but that 17% of the world’s population has 80% of the wealth. (Interview with Radio Renascença , September 14, 2015)
Whenever adherence to a specific religious tradition gives birth to service that shows conviction, generosity and concern for the whole of society without making distinctions, then there too exists an authentic and mature living out of religious freedom. This presents itself not only as a space in which to legitimately defend one’s autonomy, but also as a potential that enriches the human family as it advances. The more men and women are at the service of others, the greater their freedom! Let us look around us: there are so many poor and needy people, so many societies that try to find a more inclusive way of social justice and path of economic development! How great is the need for the human heart to be firmly fixed on the deepest meaning of experiences in life and rooted in a rediscovery of hope! Men and women, inspired in these areas by the values of their respective religious traditions, can offer an important, and even unique, contribution. This is truly a fertile land offering much fruit, also in the field of interreligious dialogue. (Meeting with the leaders of other religions and other Christian denominations, September 21, 2014)
The World has changed and the Church cannot enclose itself in supposed interpretations of dogma. We have to engage with social conflicts, new and old, and try to offer a consoling hand, not to stigmatize and not only to challenge. (La Nación, October 5, 2014)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter in the various parts of our study

I – The faith is centered on Christ, not man
II – The Christian faith is lived through the practice of virtue and obedience to the commandments
To live the Christian faith it is not enough to serve the poor
IV –
To serve the people on the peripheries is not the only way to live the faith

I – The faith is centered on Christ, not man

Sacred Scripture

Christ raised from the dead is the reason of our faith

And if Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. (1Cor 15:14)

Benedict XVI

The Popes of the XX century proclaimed Jesus as the centre of the cosmos, of history, of the Christian faith

The Year of Faith which we launch today is linked harmoniously with the Church’s whole path over the last fifty years: from the Council, through the Magisterium of the Servant of God Paul VI, who proclaimed a Year of Faith in 1967, up to the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, with which Blessed John Paul II re-proposed to all humanity Jesus Christ as the one Saviour, yesterday, today and forever. Between these two Popes, Paul VI and John Paul II, there was a deep and complete convergence, precisely upon Christ as the centre of the cosmos and of history, and upon the apostolic eagerness to announce him to the world. Jesus is the centre of the Christian faith. The Christian believes in God whose face was revealed by Jesus Christ. He is the fulfilment of the Scriptures and their definitive interpreter. Jesus Christ is not only the object of the faith but, as it says in the Letter to the Hebrews, he is ‘the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith’ (Heb 12:2). (Benedict XVI. Homily during the Mass for the opening of the Year of Faith, October 11, 2012)

In the pierced side of Christ, we deposit our faith

In my first Encyclical on the theme of love, the point of departure was exactly ‘contemplating the pierced side of Christ’, which John speaks of in his Gospel (cf. 19: 37; Deus Caritas Est, n. 12). And this centre of faith is also the font of hope in which we have been saved, the hope that I made the object of my second Encyclical. (Benedict XVI. Angelus, June 1, 2008)

John Paul II

Every young person should build his life and faith upon the rock, who is Christ

The principal objective of the Days is to make the person of Jesus the centre of the faith and life of every young person so that he may be their constant point of reference and also the inspiration of every initiative and commitment for the education of the new generations. This is the slogan of every Youth Day, and through this decade, the Days have been like an uninterrupted and pressing call to build life and faith upon the rock, who is Christ. (John Paul II. Letter on the occasion of the Seminar on World Youth Days organized in Czestochowa, Poland, May 8, 1996)

Our faith is strengthened by knowing the love with which Jesus assumed our human nature

Jesus Christ is our hope because he, the Eternal Word of God, who is always with the Father (cf. Jn 1:18), loved us so much that he assumed our human nature in all things but sin and shared in our life, for the sake of our salvation. The profession of this truth stands at the very heart of our faith. The loss of the truth about Jesus Christ, or a failure to comprehend that truth, prevent us from appreciating and entering into the mystery of God’s love and the Trinitarian communion. Jesus Christ is our hope because he reveals the mystery of the Trinity. This is the core of the Christian faith, and it can still make a significant contribution, as it has in the past, to the creation of structures which, inspired by the great values of the Gospel or measuring itself against them, are capable of promoting the life, history and culture of the different peoples of the Continent. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, no. 19, June 28, 2003)

The Christian faith is kept by believing in the resurrection of Christ

Easter is the center of the liturgical year and at the heart of Christian life, precisely because it is the living memorial of the central mystery of salvation: the death and resurrection of the Lord. […] A well known scholar of our century, Romano Guardini, meditating on the Paschal Mystery and its consequences in the life of the believer and the Church, affirms that ‘Christian faith is kept or lost according to whether one believes or not in the resurrection of the Lord’. The resurrection is not a phenomena marginal to this faith, and neither is it a mythological development, which faith drew from history, and which could later be annulled without losing its content: it is the heart [of faith] (Il Signore, Part VI, 1)’. The proclamation of the death and resurrection of the Lord is the center of our faith. From docile and joyful adherence to this mystery blossoms the authentic following of the Lord and the salvific mission confided to the people of God, pilgrim on earth in awaiting Jesus’ glorious return. In the light of this fundamental evangelical truth, it is fully understood that Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ, is really ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’, He who is the ‘light of the world’ and the ‘human image’ of the Father. (John Paul II. General Audience, nos. 1.3, April 14, 1993)

Those who accept Christ seek in him the solid foundation for the construction of a better and more united world

Many centuries have gone by since Christ. The heredity of God has been growing marvelously, not without repetition of the rejection, the incomprehension and the struggles – over the corner stone: Christ dead and resurrected. Each day, there are more persons and peoples who accept him with faith and with love, who seek in him the solid foundation for the construction of a better and more united world, where they feel safe under the loving gaze of only one God and Father. Among these peoples which did not reject, but which made Jesus the center of their history, is our dear Spain, profoundly Christian; among these men, heirs of God by Baptism who accept the Son, dead and resurrected, you yourselves are also counted, brothers and sisters of the Orcasitas parish of Madrid, united around the altar of the same Christ. I feel you all to be very much within me, and I receive you as dearest members of his Church. (John Paul II. Homily in the Church of Saint Bartholomew of Orcasitas, no. 2, November 3, 1982)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Son of God is always the center of the apostolic faith

Such is not the case for Simon Peter when he confesses Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’, for Jesus responds solemnly: ‘Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 16:16-17). Similarly Paul will write, regarding his conversion on the road to Damascus, ‘When he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles’… (Gal 1:15-16) ‘and in the synagogues immediately [Paul] proclaimed Jesus, saying, ‘He is the Son of God’(Acts 9:20). From the beginning this acknowledgment of Christ’s divine sonship will be the centre of the apostolic faith, first professed by Peter as the Church’s foundation (Mt 16:18). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 442)

Congregation for the Clergy

The Christian faith: conversion to Jesus Christ, full and sincere adherence to his person and the decision to walk in his footsteps

The Christian faith is, above all, conversion to Jesus Christ, full and sincere adherence to his person and the decision to walk in his footsteps. Faith is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ making, of oneself a disciple of him. This demands a permanent commitment to think like him, to judge like him and to live as he lived. In this way the believer unites himself to the community of disciples and appropriates the faith of the Church. (Congregation for the Clergy, General Directory for Catechesis, no. 53)

II – The Christian faith is lived through the practice of virtue and obedience to the commandments

Benedict XVI

To live the faith implies daily sacrifice, implies suffering

The theology of the Cross is not a theory it is the reality of Christian life. To live in the belief in Jesus Christ, to live in truth and love implies daily sacrifice, implies suffering. Christianity is not the easy road, it is, rather, a difficult climb, but one illuminated by the light of Christ and by the great hope that is born of him. St Augustine says: Christians are not spared suffering, indeed they must suffer a little more, because to live the faith expresses the courage to face in greater depth the problems that life and history present. But only in this way, through the experience of suffering, can we know life in its profundity, in its beauty, in the great hope born from Christ crucified and risen again. (Benedict XVI. General audience, November 5, 2008)

John Paul II

To reach eternal life it is necessary to fulfill the commandments and live according to the teachings of Christ

You well know the answer. You know that to reach eternal life it is necessary to fulfill the commandments, it is necessary to live according to the teachings of Christ, which are transmitted to us continually by his Church. For this reason, dear brethren, I encourage you to comport yourselves always as good Christians, to fulfill the commandments, to attend Mass on Sundays, to care for your Christian formation by attending the catechesis offered by your pastors, to confess frequently, to work, to be good parents and faithful spouses, to be good children. Do not fall into the seduction of vices such as alcohol abuse, which causes so much damage: do not collaborate with drug trafficking, cause of the destruction of so many people in the world. (John Paul II. Homily in the ‘Patria Nueva’ Colony in Mexico, no. 5, May 11, 1990)

Sanctity is the practice of virtue in a heroic manner

It is appropriate to recall here the solemn proclamation of beatification and canonization of lay men and women which took place during the month of the Synod. The entire People of God, and the lay faithful in particular, can find at this moment new models of holiness and new witnesses of heroic virtue lived in the ordinary everyday circumstances of human existence. The Synod Fathers have said: ‘Particular Churches especially should be attentive to recognizing among their members the younger men and women of those Churches who have given witness to holiness in such conditions (everyday secular conditions and the conjugal state) and who can be an example for others, so that, if the case calls for it, they (the Churches) might propose them to be beatified and canonized’. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Christifideles laici, no. 17, December 30, 1988)

Pius XII

Without sacrifice there is no profession of the Christian Faith, rather there is desertion

Who among ‘the Soldiers of Christ’ – ecclesiastic or layman – does not feel himself incited and spurred on to a greater vigilance, to a more determined resistance, by the sight of the ever-increasing host of Christ’s enemies; as he perceives the spokesmen of these tendencies deny or in practice neglect the vivifying truths and the values inherent in belief in God and in Christ; as he perceives them wantonly break the Tables of God’s Commandments to substitute other tables and other standards stripped of the ethical content of the Revelation on Sinai, standards in which the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount and of the Cross has no place? Who could observe without profound grief the tragic harvest of such desertions among those who in days of calm and security were numbered among the followers of Christ, but who – Christians unfortunately more in name than in fact – in the hour that called for endurance, for effort, for suffering, for a stout heart in face of hidden or open persecution, fell victims of cowardice, weakness, uncertainty; who, terror-stricken before the sacrifices entailed by a profession of their Christian Faith, could not steel themselves to drink the bitter chalice awaiting those faithful to Christ? (Pius XII. Encyclical Summi pontificates, no. 7-8, October 20, 1939)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

The fulfillment of a Christian vocation demands notable virtue

The constant fulfillment of the duties of this Christian vocation demands notable virtue. For this reason, strengthened by grace for holiness of life, the couple will painstakingly cultivate and pray for steadiness of love, large heartedness and the spirit of sacrifice. (Vatican Council II, Pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes, no. 49, December 7. 1965)

Congregation for the Clergy

Faith involves a profound transformation of mind and heart in adhesion to Jesus Christ

Faith involves a change of life, a ‘metanoia’, that is a profound transformation of mind and heart; it causes the believer to live that conversion. This transformation of life manifests itself at all levels of the Christian’s existence: in his interior life of adoration and acceptance of the divine will, in his action, participation in the mission of the Church, in his married and family life; in his professional life; in fulfilling economic and social responsibilities. Faith and conversion arise from the ‘heart’, that is, they arise from the depth of the human person and they involve all that he is. By meeting Jesus Christ and by adhering to him the human being sees all of his deepest aspirations completely fulfilled. He finds what he had always been seeking and he finds it superabundantly. (Congregation for the Clergy, General Directory for Catechesis, no. 55)

III – To live the Christian faith it is not enough to serve the poor

Sacred Scripture

He who gives alms to be honored will not be rewarded

(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. (Mt 6:1-2)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

The purity of one’s intentions is necessary for the practice of true charity

In order that the exercise of charity on this scale may be unexceptionable in appearance as well as in fact, it is altogether necessary that one should consider in one’s neighbor the image of God in which he has been created, and also Christ the Lord to Whom is really offered whatever is given to a needy person. It is imperative also that the freedom and dignity of the person being helped be respected with the utmost consideration, that the purity of one’s charitable intentions be not stained by seeking one’s own advantage or by striving for domination, and especially that the demands of justice be satisfied lest the giving of what is due in justice be represented as the offering of a charitable gift. Not only the effects but also the causes of these ills must be removed and the help be given in such a way that the recipients may gradually be freed from dependence on outsiders and become self-sufficient. (Vatican Council II, Decree Apostolican actuositatem, November 18, 1965)

Pius XI

Beware of charitable undertakings that do not seek the sanctification of souls

On the other hand, the spiritual formation and the interior life fostered in these your collaborators, will put them on their guard against dangers and possible deviations. Keeping in mind the ultimate aim of Catholic Action, which is the sanctification of souls, according to the Gospel precept: See ye first the Kingdom of God (Lk 12:31), you will not run the risk of sacrificing principles for immediate and secondary ends, and that supreme end will never be forgotten to which must be subordinated even social and economic works and charitable undertakings. (Pius XI. Encyclical Firmissimam constantiam, no. 12, March 28, 1937)

Pius XII

Our hearts must be inflamed with charity at the sight of so many brothers and sisters misled by error

Can there be, Venerable Brethren, a greater or more urgent duty than to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3:8) to the men of our time? Can there be anything nobler than to unfurl the ‘Ensign of the King’ before those who have followed and still follow a false standard, and to win back to the victorious banner of the Cross those who have abandoned it? What heart is not inflamed, is not swept forward to help at the sight of so many brothers and sisters who, misled by error, passion, temptation and prejudice, have strayed away from faith in the true God and have lost contact with the joyful and life-giving message of Christ? (Pius XII. Encyclical Summi pontificatus, no. 6, October 20, 1939)


The enemies of the Church always zealously declare their love for the poor

Thus, with a fraudulent external appearance, and with a style of simulation which is always the same, the Freemasons, like the Manichees of old, strive, as far as possible, to conceal themselves, and to admit no witnesses but their own members. As a convenient manner of concealment, they assume the character of literary men and scholars associated for purposes of learning. They speak of their zeal for a more cultured refinement, and of their love for the poor; and they declare their one wish to be the amelioration of the condition of the masses, and to share with the largest possible number all the benefits of civil life. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Humanum genus, no. 9, April 20, 1884)

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Pastors run the risk of being diverted to works which are just as damaging as the poverty which is being fought

The zeal and the compassion which should dwell in the hearts of all pastors nevertheless run the risk of being led astray and diverted to works which are just as damaging to man and his dignity as is the poverty which is being fought, if one is not sufficiently attentive to certain temptations. The feeling of anguish at the urgency of the problems cannot make us lose sight of what is essential nor forget the reply of Jesus to the Tempter: ‘It is not on bread alone that man lives, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Mt 4:4; cf. Deut 8:3). Faced with the urgency of sharing bread, some are tempted to put evangelization into parentheses, as it were, and postpone it until tomorrow: first the bread, then the Word of the Lord. It is a fatal error to separate these two and even worse to oppose the one to the other. In fact, the Christian perspective naturally shows they have a great deal to do with one another. To some it even seems that the necessary struggle for human justice and freedom in the economic and political sense constitutes the whole essence of salvation. For them, the Gospel is reduced to a purely earthly gospel. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on certain aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’, VI, no. 2-4, August 6, 1984)

Saint Basil the Great

The fruit of envy is a hypocritical outward semblance of charity

Surely, you are aware of how great an evil hypocrisy is, and it is the fruit of envy. This vice, above all others, causes double-dealing among men. Hypocrites maintain an outward semblance of charity, while keeping their hatred deeply hidden within, like rocks under the surface of the sea, which, being covered with shallow water, bring unforeseen disaster to the unwary. (Saint Basil the Great. Ascetical Works, Homily 11: Concerning envy, pg. 474Spanish)

Saint Francis de Sales

True charity leads us to a general practice of all God’s Commandments

Even so sinners do not rise towards God, for all their movements are earthly and earthbound. Well-meaning people, who have not as yet attained a true devotion, attempt a manner of flight by means of their good actions, but rarely, slowly and heavily; while really devout men rise up to God frequently, and with a swift and soaring wing. In short, devotion is simply a spiritual activity and liveliness by means of which Divine Love works in us, and causes us to work briskly and lovingly; and just as charity leads us to a general practice of all God’s Commandments, so devotion leads us to practise them readily and diligently. And therefore we cannot call him who neglects to observe all God’s Commandments either good or devout, because in order to be good, a man must be filled with love, and to be devout, he must further be very ready and apt to perform the deeds of love. (Saint Francis de Sales. Introduction to the devout life, Part 1, Ch. 1)

IV – To serve the people on the peripheries is not the only way to live the faith

Sacred Scripture

The contemplation of Mary merits greater praise than the good works of Martha

The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her’. (Lk 10:41-42)

Benedict XVI

All the ways of holiness are important in God’s eyes

Hence there is a fundamental will of God for us all, which is identical for us all. However its application is different in every life, for God has a specific project for each person. Saint Francis de Sales once said: perfection, that is, being good, living faith and love, is substantially one but comes in many different forms. The holiness of a Carthusian and of a politician, of a scientist or of a peasant, and so forth, is very different. Thus God has a plan for every person and I must find, in my own circumstances, my way of living this one and, at the same time, common will of God whose great rules are indicated in these explanations of love. […] Thus each person will find different possibilities in his life: he may devote himself to volunteer work in a community of prayer, in a movement or in the activity of his parish, in his own profession. Finding my vocation and living it everywhere is important and fundamental, whether I am a great scientist or a farmer. Everything is important in God’s eyes: life is beautiful if it is lived to the full with that love which really redeems the world. (Benedict XVI. Address during the meeting with the youth in preparation for World Youth Day, March 25, 2010)

The Saints’ lives are hymns to God, despite their thousand different tones

In the Encyclical published last Wednesday, by referring to the primacy of charity in the life of Christians and of the Church, I wanted to recall that the privileged witnesses of this primacy are the Saints, who made their lives a hymn to God-Love despite their thousands of different tones. We celebrate them every day of the year in the liturgy. I am thinking, for example, of those whom we are commemorating in these days: the Apostle Paul with his disciples Timothy and Titus, Saint Angela Merici, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint John Bosco. These saints are very different: the first belong to the beginnings of the Church and were missionaries of the first evangelization; in the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas is the model of a Catholic theologian who found in Christ the supreme synthesis of truth and love; in the Renaissance, Angela Merici presented a path of holiness also to those who were living in a secular environment; in the modern epoch, Don Bosco, inflamed with love for Jesus the Good Shepherd, cared for the most underprivileged children and became their father and teacher. In truth, the Church’s entire history is a history of holiness, animated by the one Love whose source is God. Indeed, only supernatural love, like the love that flows ever new from Christ’s heart, can explain the miraculous flourishing down the centuries of Orders, male and female religious Institutes and other forms of consecrated life. (Benedict XVI. Angelus, January 29, 2006)

Each one receives at baptism a personal vocation in accordance with the Father’s particular plan of love

Today, through the sacrament of Baptism, he consecrates them and calls them to follow Jesus, through the realization of their personal vocation in accordance with that particular plan of love that the Father has in mind for each one of them; the destination of this earthly pilgrimage will be full communion with him in eternal happiness. (Benedict XVI. Homily for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, January 9, 2011)

John Paul II

The search for God has always stirred the human heart in many forms

In this important work, they must always be helped to strengthen their consecration to the Lord through their daily living of the evangelical counsels. ‘All who have embraced the consecrated life are called to become leaders in the search for God, a search which has always stirred the human heart and which is particularly visible in Asia’s many forms of spirituality and asceticism’ (Ecclesia in Asia, 44). For this reason, Religious can have an essential role in the Church’s overall commitment to evangelization. (John Paul II. Address to the Bishops of Indonesia on their ad limina visit, March 29, 2003)

Paul VI

The illusion of false happiness considers only affliction and poverty

Hence the condition of the Christian, and above all of the apostle, who must become the ‘model of the flock’ (1Pt 5:3) and associate himself freely with the Redeemer’s passion. […] Unfortunately, in our century which is so threatened by the illusion of false happiness, we do not lack opportunities of noting the psychic inability of man to accept ‘the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1Cor 2:14). The world—that world which is unfitted to receive the Spirit of Truth, whom it neither sees nor knows—only sees one side of things. It considers only the affliction and poverty of the disciple, while the latter always remains, in his inmost being, in joy, because he is in communion with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. (Paul VI. Apostolic exhortation Gaudete in Domino, no. III, May 9, 1975)

Pius XII

The Holy Spirit enlightens and guides souls to sanctity – the Church on earth, like the Church in heaven, has many mansions

As regards the different methods employed in these exercises, it is perfectly clear to all that in the Church on earth, no less in the Church in heaven, there are many mansions, and that asceticism cannot be the monopoly of anyone. It is the same spirit who breatheth where He will (Jn 3:8), and who with differing gifts and in different ways enlightens and guides souls to sanctity. Let their freedom and the supernatural action of the Holy Spirit be so sacrosanct that no one presume to disturb or stifle them for any reason whatsoever. (Pius XII. Encyclical Mediator Dei, no. 179, November 20, 2011)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The love of God is by itself more meritorious than the love of our neighbor

Whether the active life is of greater merit than the contemplative?

The root of merit is charity; and, while, as stated above (q 25, a. 1), charity consists in the love of God and our neighbor, the love of God is by itself more meritorious than the love of our neighbor, as stated above (q. 27, a. 8). Wherefore that which pertains more directly to the love of God is generically more meritorious than that which pertains directly to the love of our neighbor for God’s sake. […] On the other hand, the active life is more directly concerned with the love of our neighbor, because it is ‘busy about much serving’ (Lk 10:40). Wherefore the contemplative life is generically of greater merit than the active life. This is moreover asserted by Gregory (Hom. iii in Ezech.): ‘The contemplative life surpasses in merit the active life, because the latter labors under the stress of present work’, by reason of the necessity of assisting our neighbor, ‘while the former with heartfelt relish has a foretaste of the coming rest’, i.e. the contemplation of God. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica II-II, q. 182, a. 2)


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